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Taunita Stephenson was recently named the Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging for Penn Athletics & Recreation and Wellness at Penn (Photo from Penn Athletics). 

Wellness at Penn and Penn Athletics and Recreation announced Taunita Stephenson as Penn’s head of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging on Jan. 8.

Stephenson’s new role is shared between Wellness at Penn and the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics. Her appointment marks a continuation of the partnership between Wellness at Penn and Penn Athletics.

Stephenson previously worked at The Pingry School in New Jersey as assistant director of DEIB strategic initiatives and associate athletic director.

“We are excited and energized by the opportunity to expand our ongoing partnership with our colleagues in Penn Athletics, and with her incredible experience, [Stephenson] will surely help us to enhance that collaboration to better serve our students,” Associate Provost and Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said in the Penn Athletics announcement.

Stephenson began her career as a player engagement assistant with the National Football League in 2012, working under Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent. She has held several positions related to wellness and diversity at other universities, including Grinnell College and Delaware State University.

From 2015-16, Stephenson served as the assistant commissioner of events and partnerships at the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, where she managed 15 institutions and 13 championships.

“[Stephenson]’s hiring continues our development of a culture that embraces different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences,” Director of Athletics and Recreation Alanna Shanahan said. “She brings an impressive résumé both within and outside of athletics, and we can’t wait to see what she helps us accomplish moving forward.”

Prior to her seven year stint in athletic administration, Stephenson worked as director of Birmingham Crossplex, overseeing an athletic facility approximated to have an annual economic impact of $100 million. 

Stephenson's appointment follows a series of DEIB criticisms directed at Penn Athletics. In 2022, Penn found itself at the forefront of the national debate calling for a reassessment of the participation of transgender athletes in competitive sports. Most recently, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported gender-based funding disparities across a variety of sports on Penn’s campus.

In the Penn Athletics announcement, Stephenson emphasized her commitment to positively impacting the experience of both employees and students on campus.

“This opportunity seamlessly aligns with my commitment as a mission-driven professional dedicated to making a positive and lasting effect on legacy brands and institutions with rich history and tradition," Stephenson said.